Being an independent filmmaker often means taking on responsibilities that might be outside your comfort zone. For example: writing press releases. Personally I hate writing them, but I don’t have a PR agency, so I end up writing them myself. Sometimes I have help, sometimes not.
I agonize over writing press releases more than writing scripts. A well-written press release is important, so my first suggestion is get help. If you have a friend who writes well or you have the budget to pay a PR professional, definitely do it. It’ll save you a lot of time and grief. Usually PR people have contacts with bloggers and editors, so they may be able to help distribute your press release as well. That’s really where your money is going. If your PR person is good and can get you some traction on your new project, they’ll be worth every penny. But if you are forced to write it yourself, see if you can at least get someone to proofread it for you and give it a good edit before you send it off.
Before I started writing press releases, I asked some people who had experience writing them if they had any advice for me. I also read some articles online and, of course, a great many press releases. Here are some of my take-aways.
1: FIND A GOOD TEMPLATE
There are numerous templates available online for press releases. The good ones will tell you everything you need to include. You can see some samples written in that template, and fill in the blanks. For instance, most templates will tell you to have some sort of banner image at the top (like the one above). Once you find a template that works for you, keep it, stick to it, use it every time.
2: READ AS MANY TEMPLATES AS YOU CAN
It’ll give you an idea of the language and the style of writing you want to use. If you have a friend who has recently written a press release for her production, ask her to send it to you.
3: START WITH A HEADLINE
Remember, this is something to be published, so it has to have a grabber of a headline or people won’t read it. The blogger or magazine editor may not use your headline, but give them something to work with. A good headline boils down the essentials of the project and should make anyone who reads it want to know more.
4: DEVELOP A MARKETING/PR STRATEGY
This may be easier said than done, but it’s not impossible. You want to get the word out about your project, you’ve written your press release, so now what? Where are you going to send it? Do some research and find blogs and other publications that are right for your audience. Most blogs have a contact page or a way to email the editor. Gather some names and email addresses and create your distribution list. Start with smaller blogs and work your way up.
5: GIVE YOURSELF TIME
If you have to write one of these things, and you’re like me, someone who isn’t geared to this sort of writing, give yourself plenty of time before you have to send it out. This way you won’t be sweating over it the night before your deadline praying the right words come to you. Writing a good press release takes practice. Give yourself plenty of time and write a few drafts.
Like any other type of writing it may take a while before you’re good at it. Be patient with yourself and keep writing, and eventually you’ll be as good at writing press releases as you are at screenplays.